Theses Doctoral

Latino American Children and School Readiness: The Role of Early Care Arrangements and Caregiver language

Bumgarner, Erin

The number of Latino children in the United States is steadily increasing. Many of these children are underperforming academically, with noticeable gaps in math and literacy between Latino and White children apparent by kindergarten. In coming years, researchers and policymakers will be confronted with the challenge of developing interventions, such as high quality child care, to better prepare Latino children for their entry into kindergarten. Findings from several studies already suggest that high quality center-based child care arrangements may have positive impacts on Latino children's academic outcomes. Such research is informative and has important policy implications; however, several gaps still remain in the literature. First, while center-based care appears to have larger effects on school readiness than parental care for Latino children, we know less about how different center-based arrangements compare to each other (e.g. Head Start vs. pre-kindergarten) or how different home-based arrangements compare to each other (e.g. parental vs. other home-based care). Second, most studies have estimated the effects of care arrangements for 3- and 4-year old children. We know relatively little about the effects of care arrangements for Latino children younger than that. Finally, many studies come from a single site or city, limiting the variability of data and generalizability of findings. This dissertation aims to address these gaps in the literature by drawing on a nationally representative sample of Latino American children from the birth cohort of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study (ECLS-B). With these data, this dissertation first examines the association between care arrangements the year before kindergarten (YBK; Head Start, pre-kindergarten, other center, parental, home) and outcomes at kindergarten entry (math, literacy, and approaches to learning) for Latino American children. I then extended this inquiry to estimate impacts of care arrangements at 2 years (center, parental, home) and outcomes at kindergarten entry for Latino children. Finally, for Latino children from Spanish speaking homes, I examine whether the primary language of instruction (Spanish or English) is associated with outcomes at kindergarten entry. Results from Propensity Score Models (PSM) reveal few significant differences between care arrangements for Latino children. Among those significant differences that did emerge when care arrangement was measured the YBK, most were for English literacy outcomes. Latino children in center-based care arrangements (Head Start, pre-kindergarten, and other-center) scored significantly higher than those in home based care. Latino children in Head Start also scored higher than those in parental care. No significant differences emerged between the three center arrangements. Even fewer contrasts were significant when math was the outcome (center > home; Head Start > center), and no contrasts were significant when approaches to learning was the outcome. Follow-up analyses indicated that the findings were not very robust. Moreover, those significant differences that did emerge could be explained by differences in care arrangement quality. Second, results from PSM models at the 2-year wave did not reveal any significant contrasts for Latino children. Children scored similarly on math, literacy, and approaches to learning in kindergarten regardless of the care arrangement they attended at 2-years. Finally, results from PSM models showed that the language of instruction plays an important role in predicting kindergarten readiness outcomes. Latino children whose teachers spoke primarily Spanish scored significantly lower on math and literacy compared to those whose teachers spoke primarily English. These results were not explained by several characteristics of classroom quality (e.g. teacher qualifications, classroom size, time spent on reading and math activities).


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Developmental Psychology
Thesis Advisors
Brooks-Gunn, Jeanne
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
February 18, 2013